INFERENCE (Lat. V. infero) – the cognitive process of deriving information from the situation (context), as well as the information, or knowedge, as a result of this process. In classical logic I. is a syllogism or conclusion deduced from two premises like “If A is inherent in B, B is inherent in C, then A is inherent in C” (in Aristotle’s logic) or the rules of an argument validity (in Stoic’s logic). In Aristotle’s example from two premises All mammals are haematothermal and Horses are mammals one is liable to deduce that Horses are haematothermal, which is true because they are mammals [Aristotle 1952]. Aristotle singles out the characteristics of I. which involve the existence of a unique conclusion and Verity, Faith and Cognitive Action dominance. In post classical and modern logic I. presupposes not solely logical validity and verity, but also biological validity, which means that several potential inferential schemes are accepted as true. In Kim is pregnant the I. may be Therefore, Kim is not a man, which results from biological rather than logical validity [Thomason 1974].

In formal linguistics I. is used both as a common word (in the English-language scientific tradition being synonymous to conclusion) and as a special term or meta-language introduced to describe logical presuppositions in Ch. Fillmore’s semantics [Fillmore 1984], a semantic mechanism of textual implication in J. Bybee’s analysis [Bybee et al 1994], stable and unstable textual inferential models in the semantics of syntax in E. Paducheva [Падучева 2004] and A. Zaliznyak [Зализняк 2006].

In pragmatics I. is associated with the results of textual implications [Brown, Levinson 1978]; discourse and situational models [Dijk, Kintsch 1983], metaphoric and metonymic schemes [Panther, Thornburg 2007]. For instance, the inference scheme SALIENT BODY PART FOR PERSON can yield pragmatically derived meanings of balloonnose, fatface, skinnylegs [Ibid.: 248].

In cognitive linguistics the term I. as a personally meaningful response or recognition of textual information was first introduced into syntactical semantics by W. Sellars in 1953. This is how W. Sellars defines the withdrawal operation of I.: “Obeying a rule entails recognizing that a circumstance is one to which the rule applies. But to recognize the circumstances to which this rule applies, one would already have to have the concept of red, that is a symbol of which it can correctly be said that it “means red” [Sellars 1953: 23]. In Russian cognitive linguistics tradition, the term I. was coined by Е. Kubrjakova as “one of the basic cognitive operations of human thought which is activated when a person withdraws new knowledge from the textual constituents» [Кубрякова 1996: 33-34]. N. Boldyrev refers to I. as “the meanings derived due to knowledge entailment and implicit domain integration (e.g. A Harvard graduate student > has received excellent education)” [Болдырев 2014: 102].


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